Scott Lewis isn’t sure he can do another year of this. With Carnifex, one of deathcore’s most long-lasting and hard-touring acts, Scott and his bandmates have built their lives on traveling around the globe and assaulting willing fans’ eardrums with their massive brand of extreme music. But with a canceled tour in early 2020 followed by a global pandemic that shut down the whole live music industry, Carnifex’s entire way of life was quickly swept by the wayside. So when it came time to record their new album Graveside Confessions, the band went into it with a Viking berserker mindset. Today, they thought, might be a good day to die.
“In my mind, I was thinking, This might be it,” says Scott. “If we had to go another year…we can’t do that. We have to go do something else [for a living]. And I might have brought that into the lyrics. There’s some apathy on the record, for sure. A lot of nihilism. No faith in humanity. And we were also coming off of a tour cycle that didn’t happen, so 2019’s World War X, because of that, in part, didn’t perform particularly well. So I think we were also really trying to find our way back to the sweet spot. Which is why we stayed a four-piece, which is why we recorded the album ourselves. Which is why it sounds a little more raw, a little more deathcore. Why we rerecorded the old tracks. We wanted a less-distilled version of the band.”
To Scott’s credit, Carnifex achieved their goal and then some. What Graveside Confessions lacks in World War X’s looming menace, it makes up for in rabid aggression. From the opening title track through the three rerecorded songs from the band’s 2007 debut Dead In My Arms, the album is a vicious reintroduction to a band that have gone back to their gnarled, bloody roots. This serrated-edge approach is not only exciting to hear, it’s also a refreshing development from a band who, over the course of their storied career, have established themselves comfortable within the scene. There’s something inspiring about such a well-oiled machine as Carnifex making music as though tomorrow might never come.
“But that’s just it,” laughs Scott. “Our well-oiled machine was a well-oiled TOURING machine. So when that went away, it was like, There goes the business! So now what?
You guys recorded this album at home, and Shawn [Cameron, drums and keyboards] engineered it. Does it feel good to be so self-contained at this point?
Yes and no. The majority of our business is still touring. So losing that, it really took a financial toll on all of us. We all live off the band, and we live in SoCal, so it’s extremely expensive, and a musician’s salary doesn’t go far. And…a year and a half, that’s a long time not to work! We went into this with a bunch of debt because we had our tour canceled before we could play any shows to make any money. So it was kind of like a worst-case scenario as far as timing went, and the business of the band. But the one silver lining was, we could do the record. We didn’t have to ask for help or permission to do it. And I think we got a pretty good record out of it.
Booking a tour is still very 50/50 these days, risk-wise. Did you ever consider waiting until tours were 100% back before releasing this album?
I dunno, maybe we were too hopeless, but we set this release date back in January, so we didn’t have any tours on the books. It was one of those things where we were like, Maybe touring’s DONE! Maybe this is the last record we ever write. Maybe we’re off for ANOTHER YEAR? We couldn’t survive that. We can’t go another year without working. We’d all have to find new professions. So for us, it was like, the record just needs to be out. It needs to exist. If we’re touring, yes, we still have jobs! If we’re not touring, then here’s the last Carnifex record you’ll hear for a long time, or ever. We were kind of resolute to our demise at that point. But we got past it — we had a great two-week run in July that was just wonderful, and we have some tours coming up. Hopefully nothing gets changed and canceled — I’m 99% it won’t. But you never know.
Graveside Confessions sounds a lot more go-for-the-throat than World War X. Was that intentional? Did you guys sit down and plan the album’s direction out, or did that just happen?
I think it was something we said — we wanted it to be more. We’ve kind of been discouraged from being a deathcore band over the last couple of years. And the marketing and the branding, the stuff labels put in the press releases — they absolutely just loathe the word deathcore. They were definitely making that push of, Be a metal band! Deathcore’s for kids — you guys gotta grow up and be metal. And so we really tried to be that deathcore band that could break the glass ceiling, and could go on tour with Slipknot, or Behemoth, or Lamb of God, because I haven’t seen many deathcore bands doing that. And a lot of that has to do with the stigma of the genre in the industry. It’s not appreciated or respected. So we pushed back against that. It’s fortuitous timing that there’s kind of a deathcore resurgence now with a lot of the young bands. And it is exciting to see that they’re not getting ‘You Guys Are Fake Metal’ til they’re blue in the face. So it seemed like the right time to say, You know what, we are who we are. It’s a deathcore record. It’s a deathcore band. Love it or leave it. We really wanted for people to listen to the record and say either, ‘This is fucking insane!’ or, ‘This is hot garbage and I don’t give a fuck about this band.’ That was really our goal.
Along those lines, it feels like there’s a really macabre vibe to the whole record. Did that come from returning to your roots?
In part — on World War X, I switched up my lyrics a bit. I was trying to write stuff that was less personal and specific, more ambiguous to metal. Dystopian worlds and whatnot. On Graveside, I went the other way — I wanted to write personally, to the point where I hope it makes people uncomfortable. I want people to ask, ‘Is he making this up? Is this actually what’s going on up there?’ I really wanted to go there. “Cemetery Wander,” for example, that song is lyrically about something that happened when I was 17. But songs like “Seven Souls” and “Pray For Peace,” “Countess of Perpetual Torment,” are much more reflective of what I was coping with while I was going through a year and a half of not working, and what goes with that.
Did you find yourself missing stuff from tour? Like, saying, Damn, 711 for lunch would be amazing right now?
There was a period there, before we started tracking, when I went five months where I hadn’t done any screaming. And I found I was way more tense. I realized, Damn, screaming is kind of like scream therapy for me. It’s kind of a rage room. I didn’t even realize that, because it was so much a part of tour. And then, when we started tracking, I’d be like, Damn, it feels good to scream! And then the rest of that day, I’d feel more relaxed! I also found myself reverting to a pre-tour status thing, where I was listening to a lot of music, watching a lot of movies, which I hand’t really done in years. It was kind of nice that were some of the things that feel good to me. Put movies on, get away from the inner turmoil.
Were the ultra-personal lyrics causing you a lot of turmoil? Was it difficult to dettach from them?
Writing those lyrics, you gotta go there to make them feel good, and you’ve got to try and craft them in a way where you want to use some cool wordplay or whatever. You’ve got to spend time with them. You’ve got to let them emotionally guide you so you can come up with cool, real shit. If you were to think of Jaoquin Pheonix while playing the Joker, he’s not always playing him, but he’s probably carrying that character around with him quite a bit, because he’s trying to bring it out of him from such a real place. It was kind of like that on [Graveside Confessions]. I really tried to put lyrics to this record that would connect with someone as though they were right in the room. Not everybody — that’s the problem with lyrics that are very specific. You exclude a lot of people. But the people you do capture, you get their hearts. I don’t know if we did that on this record. We’ll see what the fans say.
Carnifex’s Graveside Confessions drops September 3rd via Nuclear Blast and is available for preorder.
Catch the band on tour later this year with The Black Dahlia Murder at one of the following dates:
Sept. 3 – Chicago, IL @ Concord Music Hall
Sept. 4 – Minneapolis, MN @ The Fillmore
Sept. 5 – Milwaukee, WI @ The Rave
Sept. 7 – Grand Rapids, MI @ The Intersection
Sept. 8 – Fort Wayne, IN @ Piere’s
Sept. 9 – Sauget, IL @ Pop’s
Sept. 10 – Lawrence, KS @ Granada Theater
Sept. 11 – Denver, CO @ Summit Music Hall
Sept. 12 – Salt Lake City, UT @ The Complex
Sept. 14 – Seattle, WA @ El Corazon
Sept. 15 – Portland, OR @ Bossanova Ballroom
Sept. 17 – Berkley, CA @ UC Theater
Sept. 18 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Belasco
Sept. 19 – San Diego, CA @ House of Blues
Sept. 21 – Las Vegas, NV @ House of Blues
Sept. 22 – Mesa, AZ @ Nile Theater
Sept. 24 – Dallas, TX @ GMBG
Sept. 25 – Austin, TX @ Come And Take It Live
Sept. 26 – Houston, TX @ Warehouse Live
Sept. 28 – Atlanta, GA @ Center Stage
Sept. 29 – Greensboro, NC @ Arizona Pete’s
Sept. 30 – Baltimore, MD @ Baltimore Soundstage
Oct. 1 – Columbus, OH @ King of Clubs
Oct. 2 – Pittsburgh, PA @ Roxian Theater
Oct. 3 – Cleveland, OH @ House of Blues
Oct. 5 – Detroit, MI @ St. Andrews Hall
Oct. 6 – Toronto, ON @ Phoenix Concert Hall
Oct. 7 – Montreal, QC @ Club Soda
Oct. 8 – Worcester, MA @ The Palladium
Oct. 9 – Sayreville, NJ @ Starland Ballroom
Oct. 10 – New York, NY @ Irving Plaza
Words by Chris Krovatin